What a weekend! The month of April went out with a bang, with two of spring’s most popular events taking place on the same Saturday night, and both events were benefiting the children of Louisiana.
Dancing for Big Buddy
Twelve Star Dancers took to the stage of the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center to vie for the title of dancing king and queen in the eighth annual Dancing for Big Buddy extravaganza April 27. They danced the salsa, disco, tango, conga and even “French Ballroom” to the delight of the audience filled with family, friends and supporters of Big Buddy.
Melanie Hebert-Wyatt’s finale freestyle with LeConté Banks, of Tari’s School of Dance, started out with the jitterbug and went through the decades until they “Put a Ring On It” “Gangnam Style” — a routine that earned her the Female Audience Choice Award and “Fastest Feet” from me and fellow judges Lynne Spears (yes, Britney’s mom) and John Spain.
A music miscue forced Star Dancer Lonnie Stockwell and partner Lisa White, of Powell-Moï se School of Dance, to restart their 1940s swing routine. What would have flustered most folks didn’t faze them and Lonnie was rewarded with the Male Audience Choice Award and the judges’ award for “Best Showmanship.” He also took home the prize for Online Voters Choice.
Spain and I have known WBRZ news anchor Michael Marsh for a long, long time, so when he channeled his inner John Travolta and shook his groove thing with partner Claire Broyles we just had to ask, did he even know what a groove thing was? Turns out he did, earning the judges? award for “Most Surprising” performance.
Event co-chairmen Terri LeBlanc and Reid Bateman also presented judges’ awards to Stephanie Anderson and partners Leonard Augustus and LéBrian Patrick, of the Dancers’ Workshop, Spiciest; Allison Collins and Augustus, Hottest Couple; Renea Duffin and partner Van Vo, of Courtney Black’s Ballroom Dance, Hottest Legs; Darrin Goss Sr. and partner Jerisse Grantham, of Jeffie Jean Studio, Highest Energy Dance; Ashley Hebert and Patrick, Most Sultry; Dr. Aimée Russo Mounger (“Every guy here now has a cavity,” said Spain.) and partner Patrick, Sassiest; Tracy Donovan Smith and partner Charlotte Thorne, of the Manship Theatre, Best Technique & Boom Boom; Michael Tipton and partner Kris Cangelosi, of Cangelosi Dance Project, Most Daring; and Patrick Valluzzo and partners Courtney Black and Johanna Collier, of Courtney Black’s Ballroom Dance, Most Suave, and proving that a little salsa is just what’s needed for a double “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”
Really stealing the show were Little Buddies, whose routine choreographed by Donna Blanchard and White from Powell-Moï se, had everyone on their feet doing the “YMCA” at intermission. Kudos to the McKinley High School Fashion Club for their adorable costumes.
Denim & Diamonds
Across town, co-worker Karen Martin was hanging with the jeans and boots crowd at JDRF’s 13th annual Denim & Diamonds “Derby After Dark” Gala on the grounds of the home of Carolyn and Dan Heard. The event, which raises money for research to end Type 1 diabetes, included silent and live auctions as well as raffles for jewelry from Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry and a 2014 Ford Fusion from Hollingsworth Richards Ford. In addition to those companies, presenting sponsors included Republic Finance, Peregrin’s Florist and Decorative Services and Kellie and Bob Belk. This year’s honorees were the Ellison family.
The Dunham School Jazz Band dazzled at the Winner’s Circle Reception, where Ruffino’s was dishing up delicious delicacies. And The Something Blue Band kept this crowd tapping their toes while tasty dishes were served by Amazing Cakes, Brew-Bachers, Beausoleil, Coca-Cola, Community Coffee, Galatoire’s Bistro, Izzo’s Illegal Burrito, Drusilla Seafood Restaurant, Drusilla Place Catering, Mansurs on the Boulevard, Mockler Beverage, Nothing Bundt Cakes, On the Half Shell, Lava Cantina, The Edible Event Catering, Zea Rotisserie Grill, Sammy’s Catering and Fleming’s.
Members of the gala committee are Al Flettrich, Alexandra Falcon, Angie Wood, Brandy McMills, Carla Tarleton, Carmen Williams, Eileen Stradley, Gina Ellison, Karen Bass, Kristy Andries, Leigh Davis, Linda Thompson, Lucas Molbert, Mary Raines, Sheryl Brady Teske, Susan Love and Tamara Palmer. Abby Hamilton is executive director of the Louisiana JDRF chapter. Kelly Hurtado emceed the night, and Todd Mason served as auctioneer.
Gourmet in the Garden
I had barely arrived at the Burden Gardens April 25 before Carolyn Stutzman tracked me down and introduced me to Joni and Paul Phillip, of Utah. They were among 25 mystery tour guests whose last stop of the week was the progressive dinner benefiting the LSU AgCenter’s Botanic Gardens at Burden and the Louisiana Culinary Institute Foundation. The Phillips and their fellow travelers, as well as the several hundred other dinners, were enjoying the culinary offerings of award-winning local chefs and Culinary Institute students.
Participants included lead chef Colt Patin, Sean and Kat Rivera, Gautreaux Group; Ryan André, LeCreolé, Jay Ducote, Bit & Booze; John Lundin, P.F. Chang’s; Nathan Gresham, Beausoleil; Paige Lucas, Triumph Kitchen; Kelli Scott, Camp Istrouma; Mark Alleman, Hook & Boil; Jared Rising, L’Auberge Casino; and Alexis Girhiny and John Carriere, Louisiana Culinary Institute.
Fashion for a Cause
Before heading to the gardens, I popped in at the Woman’s Club downtown for Fashion for a Cause. This was a public relations class project for a group of LSU students, who selected Connections for Life as the beneficiary of their efforts. Connections for Life assists women getting out of prison in transitioning back into society.
Emcee for the evening was Julie Baxter. Models showcased the latest summer looks from Poise ‘n Ivy.
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